Modelling sediment dynamics due to hillslope–river interactions: incorporating fluvial behaviour in landscape evolution model LAPSUS


Jantiene E. M. Baartman, Land Dynamics Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Landscape evolution models (LEMs) simulate the three-dimensional development of landscapes over time. Different LEMs have different foci, e.g. erosional behaviour, river dynamics, the fluvial domain, hillslopes or a combination. LEM LAPSUS is a relatively simple cellular model operating on timescales of centuries to millennia and using annual timesteps that has had a hillslope focus. Our objective was to incorporate fluvial behaviour in LAPSUS without changing the existing model equations. The model should be able to reproduce alternating aggradation and incision in the floodplains of catchments, depending on simulated conditions. Testing was done using an artificial digital elevation model (DEM) and a demonstration of the ability for fluvial simulation was performed for a real landscape (Torrealvilla catchment, southeast Spain).

Model equations to calculate sediment dynamics and water routing were similar for both hillslope and fluvial conditions, but different parameter values were used for these domains, defined based on annual discharge. Parameters changing between the domains are convergence factor p, which is used in the multiple flow algorithm to route water, and discharge and gradient exponents m and n, used in transport capacity calculations.

Erodibility and ‘sedimentability’ factors K and P were changed between cold (little vegetation, high erodibility) and warm conditions (more vegetation, lower erodibility). Results show that the adapted parameters reproduced alternating aggradation – due to divergent flow in the floodplain and sediment supply under cold conditions – and incision due to reduced sediment supply and resulting clean water erosion during simulated warm conditions. The simulated results are due to interactions between hillslopes and floodplains, as the former provide the sediments that are deposited in the latter. Similar behaviour was demonstrated when using the real DEM. Sensitivity and resolution analysis showed that the model is sensitive to changes in m, n and p and that model behaviour is influenced by DEM resolution. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.